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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for May, 2011

Claire Wolfe

Routing around Internet censorship

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

We all know John Gilmore’s famous dictum: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

True, but with governments doing what they do (and with more bandwidth being centralized in the hands of fewer, larger ISPs), routing around damage isn’t necessarily an automatic thing.

From C^2 comes word of a new book (available free in HTML, pdf, and epub, available for purchase in dead tree format): How to Bypass Internet Censorship. Forgive it for opening with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights; to some people in the world, that’s an improvement over what they’ve got locally. I haven’t read the whole thing, but it looks like a pretty good guide, C^2 says it’s backed and partly funded by the good people of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and it’s free.

Tell your friends in less free places. Snag a copy for your own reference, come the day. (Even short of that day, it appears to contain a good explanation of how censorship works, how to circumvent it, and what risks are involved.)

Claire Wolfe

A Maid of Constant Sorrow

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

It’s been a bad-news couple of weeks. Developments in the world have sucked — from those multiple anti-Fourth Amendment court decisions through the re-inflicting of UnPatriot Act provisions to individual horrors like the sadistic abuse of Star, “the dog who lived.”

In fact, it’s been a bad month starting with the jingoistic blood-lust over the assassination of bin Laden and the murder-followed-by-ever-changing-sheriff-blame-the-victim stories of Jose Guerena.

But then (as I’ve been reminded lately reading histories of the Middle Ages), developments in the world mostly suck, and always have. At least when they involve governments or conscienceless sociopathic sadists (but I repeat myself).

I deliberately avoided blogging much of the month’s rottenness. Others were covering the bad news and I just didn’t want it here. This is, after all, supposed to be “Living Freedom” — and being free is not supposed to be about being jerked hither and thither by rotten news created by even more rotten malefactors and their malodorous institutions.

But try though I might, it got to me. Yesterday afternoon, I caught a tune going round and round in my head: “Maid of Constant Sorrow.” That’s the girly version of the old folk song, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which you might remember from The Soggy Bottom Boys of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

It wasn’t the lyrics, which are just standard country misery, but the concept — being a person of constant sorrow. Which is what the world will inflict on you if you let it. Between the bad news and worries about some wonderful people who are going through hard times, I let it.

Well, to hell with the ceaseless din of dismal developments. I don’t want to blog an endless stream of bad news. I don’t want to blog cynical, snarky rants. Not all the time — even though I suspect that blogging cynical, snarky rants about bad news would probably triple the readership and sell more books. Snark is entertaining. Indignation makes people feel good. Even being “of constant sorrow” feels good if you can convince yourself you’re suffering because you’re so Sensitive and Noble that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune perpetually wound your Saintly Soul.

And it feels irresponsible not to blog the scariest news that — like it or not — affects us all, even though others who specialize in privacy or police brutality or law and regulation can do it better.

Which is why I added that topic-delineated not-quite-a-blogroll over the weekend. In the future, you want to watch video of the latest puppycide — go see Radley Balko. Want to know which part of your toddler the TSA wants to grope next — visit one of the blogs under the privacy heading. Want gun news? David Codrea and Mke Vanderboegh are your friends. I know, you probably pay them frequent visits, anyhow. But now that I’ve put the specialists on this page, I feel like I’m off the hook for at least some of that stuff. (You never thought I was on the hook, did you? But I did. And now I feel better.)

Oh, that’s not to say I’ve sworn off ranting. Of course I’ll rant. And I hope you will, too. The comment section can use some good rants. And good links to bad news. Go to it.

Nor am I going to turn this blog into your daily dose of Happy News. There’d be about five readers left at the end of the week if I did that. And I wouldn’t be one of them.

But Living Freedom needs to be what its title implies. It needs to be a refuge, a sanity break, from the relentlessness of BAD. It needs more of this and less of … well, constant sorrow.

Ranting is easier, and so are quick newsbits. So if I really cut down on the rants and news items, that also means I’ll probably cut down a bit on the frequency of postings. But I’m going to do my best to bring you news you can use, practical freedom tips, as well as some non-sappy uplift, and make this blog live up to its amazingly pretentious name.

I should probably even write another book: “How to be Happy While the Whole World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket.” Seriously. I should. Probably ought to read it, too.

Claire Wolfe

Finally. A blogroll. Sort of.

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

If you scroll down and look to the right just below the archives, you’ll see a “real” blogroll. Until now, there’s been only a redundant set of links to other BHM blogs that Oliver put in that spot.

My blogroll isn’t strictly a blogroll because not everything on it is a blog. What I’m aiming to do over time is list the top two to 10 sites, blog or otherwise, in some of the most important liberty categories. This is just a beginning. While a blogroll is no big deal, I know (like a certain something else, everybody has one), this one is connected with some re-thinking I’ve been doing about the nature of this blog.

More on that soon …

Claire Wolfe

OathKeepers muster for Jose Guerena

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

If you want to commemorate the honorable dead this weekend, you might join (in spirit or in fact) the OathKeepers muster for Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine murdered by cops while trying to protect his family from vicious home invaders. The muster will take place in Tucson on Monday.

When the SWATting of non-violent drug offenders (which Guerna was not) and gun owners (which he was) ceases, OathKeepers (both the members of the organization and those cops who finally recognize the unlawfulness of what they’ve been doing and stand by their oaths) will deserve everyone’s honor — hopefully not only posthumous honor on Memorial Day.

Claire Wolfe

Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat (a book review)

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution
By M.D. Creekmore
Available from Paladin Press
Available from
$12.00, 79 pages, 2011

While many would-be survivalists were waiting to win the lottery or planning to discreetly bump off a rich uncle to build their Ultimate Survival Retreat in Idaho (complete with underground bunkers, escape tunnels, a decade’s supply of dried lentils, and customized Super Whizz-Whacker 3000 rifles at every lead-shuttered portal) … a handful of authors have been telling us how to do it another way: cheap.

First came Brian Kelling with his Travel-Trailer Homesteading Under $5,000

Then along came Phil Garlington with his witty, irreverent, charming, and surprisingly practical Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead

This year they’re joined by one of the blogosphere’s most noted survival writers M.D. Creekmore of

Kelling and Creekmore both talk about travel-trailer living. Garlington leans more toward primitive structures. All three offer voice-of-experience advice suitable for both low-budget emergency retreats and year-round living. All three bring their own varieties of sage advice: Kelling gives the Cadillac plan (albeit a used Cadillac that’s probably been up on blocks for years), with details on how to create an in-ground homemade septic system and convert a travel trailer to wood heat. Garlington’s lifestyle and advice is for the real don’t-give-a-damn desert rat who loves to scrounge and improvise and doesn’t pay much heed to civilized amenities.

Kelling and Garlington’s books were published by the late, great Loompanics Unlimited and to the best of my knowledge are both out of print (though they’re available via the Amazon links above). So Creekmore is your #1 contemporary option for this sort of book.

And that’s good because his advice comes from a nice, comfortable spot in between his predecessors.


When Creekmore bought a couple acres of junk land and a travel trailer, he never intended to live there full time. He intended the place to be only a campsite and weekend getaway. But a layoff, a divorce, and increasing financial desperation drove him to the country. So he set about adapting his place as a permanent retreat.

He starts off by making one hugely important point about why a cheap retreat might be the way to go: If you don’t own your place outright, then you risk having a bank take it away from you just when you need it most. (Score one for M.D. Creekmore.)

He then goes on to give brief how-tos on:

  • Acquiring inexpensive off-grid land
  • Selecting and buying a trailer
  • Building a simple solar power system
  • Getting water and dealing with waste
  • Establishing security
  • Stockpiling water, food, guns, and other supplies

His writing style is clear. He definitely knows what he’s talking about (I, too, have lived in a travel-trailer on off-grid land and would spot any bogus advice). The slender book contains enough good information that you could slip it into your back pocket and consult it as you carried out your plans.

The subtitle is “One Man’s Solution” — and that it is. The book tells what Creekmore did and most of the detail he gives relates to his own experience. For instance, he talks at length (and shows photos) of his own solar power setup but merely mentions wind power in passing since he has little experience with it. That may be a drawback, but in a way it’s also a strength, since you can be sure that Creekmore knows what he’s talking about.

Some of his systems are simpler than what you might want. For instance, he tried Kelling’s homemade septic system, then found that it didn’t work for him because of local soil conditions. So he switched to a portable toilet and a labor-intensive “humanure” composting system. (His garden probably appreciates the change.)

Yet (with only a minor exception) he remains on track when it comes to guiding his readers toward their own goals. IMHO, the most useful thing about Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat is that it lays out a pretty comprehensive outline of everything you need to consider in building a retreat. Your solutions might (and probably will) be slightly different than his. But he gives you a framework — a guideline to follow from start to finish.

He delivers some excellent reality checks: you will be chilly in cold weather; you will steam inside your tin-can refuge in the summer. You can mitigate these problems, but you won’t eliminate them.

The one place he went astray made me laugh. On the penultimate page, in a list of otherwise very well thought-out miscellaneous items you might want for stocking your dirt-cheap retreat, he recommends “$1,000 worth (face value) of pre-1965, 90% silver U.S. dimes.”***

In your dreams, M.D. Creekmore! At the moment my review copy arrived from Paladin Press, $1,000 worth of pre-1965 U.S. coins was selling for close to $40,000. Even at the currently reduced “bargain” price of $37+ per ounce of silver, that bag of coins would set you back more than $27,000. Would it be a lovely, lovely asset to possess? You betcha. Will it become even a more blessed thing as the U.S. dollar tanks? Oh, indeed. But how it fits into a dirt-cheap plan — now, that’s another thing.

Try to budget for a $100 face bag of those coins. Or buy $10 face every time you get a little extra money in, or even $1 face. You’ll be glad you did. But don’t intimidate yourself by thinking that a “dirt-cheap” plan should include a small fortune in coins. With the lifestyle implied by a dirt-cheap budget, when the really hard times hit you’re more likely to scrounge, barter, make do, or do without than you are to whip out a fistful of silver dimes and impress your neighbors (and any burglars or tax-leeches who may be around) with your newfound wealth.

But that’s a nitpick. Creekmore has produced, and the good folk at Paladin have published, an inexpensive, useful guide to both budget-minded living and inexpensive retreat building.

Above all, as the author writes, don’t be afraid to live as he does or prepare a retreat as simply as he did — if the idea intrigues you:

Some people prefer a life of simplicity to a “normal” stressed existence. Others want to eliminate debt and the possibility of homelessness after an economic collapse or personal economic downturn.

Some people may be reluctant to embrace such a stripped-down lifestyle for fear of what others will think of them. …

To those who fear the hardships involved or doubt their ability to live off the grid, let me assure you: your fears are unfounded. Before making the move, I too had thoughts of ruination — yet I suffered no hardships to speak of. In fact, I’m actually content for the first time in my life.

*** ADDED: Be sure to read M.D. Creekmore’s comment below. And heaven save all us writers from awkward typos.

Claire Wolfe

Tornado dog crawls home on broken legs

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Amid all the sorrows and horrors of this year’s record-crushing (and human-crushing, and house-crushing, and pet-crushing) tornadoes, this is awe inspiring.

Written version for the video challenged.

Claire Wolfe

John Williams on hyperinflation

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

In case you missed this …

I usually take these things with a grain of salt. We’ve just seen a lovely example of how embarrassingly fallible predictions of doom can be. But John Williams of Shadowstats is the very definition of credibility, so it’s worth taking a new look at his most recently updated predictions for hyperinflation. In a word, he says: SOON. Within the year.

Here’s Silver’s take on Williams’ report. And Williams’ report in full.


Have you also noticed that we’re hearing the term “stagflation” again — meaning an economy that’s going nowhere while prices soar? Well, just a thought. “Stagflation” was something new when it reared its head in the 70s. Economists (presumably not of the Austrian variety) puzzled over it then, and now. What was that weird state and why was it upon us? Ah well. Before mainstreamers figured out the wherefores, Paul Volcker came along, gave the Fed a hard wrench, and that mysterious phenomenon of stagflation passed.

I don’t claim to be an expert. But there’s reason to think that “stagflation” is the larval stage of hyperinflation (sample + sample from very different parts of the political spectrum). Volcker may have wrenched us back from the brink all those years ago. Bernanke .. not likely.

Is Williams right? Dunno. I find it hard to work up the energy to go into Doom Mode, these days.

But if you had to bet on who had the best economic wisdom, who would you back? Williams? Or (pardon me while I spit tea all over the keyboard here) the Obama-Geithner-Bernanke team?

Claire Wolfe

New blog: The Independent Spirit

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

There’s a new blog in town. Or rather, about as far out of town as it can get. In any case, it’s a charmer for everybody who’s interested in things like off-grid technology, permaculture, DIY homebuilding, and independent living in general.

It’s The Independent Spirit.

TIS is the work of three people you sort of know if you regularly visit Living Freedom: Joel of The Ultimate Answer to Kings, Ian, and Debra. The latter two you may have seen as “M.” and “landlady” on Joel’s blog.

I suspect The Independent Spirit blog was born from the clamor of Get Rich Slowly readers to know more about Ian’s prize-winning video success story. In any case, it’s a great addition to the blogosphere by three people who write well and are super-doers. (And since I’ve known all three for years, I can verify that they really know what they’re talking about — and tell you that Ian’s even more handsome and charming in person than he is in his video. He’s Hollywood-handsome, in fact, and it’s always been an amazing thing to me that he prefers hanging out with a bunch of desert rats and being a desert rat himself rather than … well, doing the usual things Hollywood-handsome men do.)

Anyhow, prepare for some good reading and great information from three bright, charming, cussedly independent freedomistas.



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